Friday, November 18, 2011

Flickering Hope by Naomi Kinsman

Recommendation: Recommended

Young Sadie is settling into her new life. She has made some new friends and is learning much about herself as well. However distress and drama are never too far out of reach. It seems her enemy Frankie wants to be friends, but why? Who can she trust and how does she know what the "right" thing to do is?

Positives: Sadie is growing up and trying to navigate these difficult years in life, I think the author has done a great job of portraying her character. She continues to ask questions about who God is and pursues involvement with the local youth group. This story continued right where the first book "Shades of Truth" left off.

Negatives: Sadie is still seeking answers to her questions about God and I feel like she is receiving "religious" answers, but not "gospel" answers. The youth group she is involved in takes on a Christmas service project. While this is great, there is still no Jesus and no gospel presented to Sadie and her unsaved family and friends. I hope it's coming in future books!

Talking Points: There is a boy/girl relationship developing between Sadie and Andrew and at the end of the story they have a picnic in the woods together. Talk to your daughter about your expectations for her relationships with boys as she grows older. Hopefully you have already prayerfully considered how you will handle these relationships, but communicate lovingly and clearly to her your Scriptural viewpoint and tell her you want to always be available to talk about boys, or anything for that matter! Sadie also seems to have difficulties with friendships. A good place to start is the book of Proverbs to see what a good friend is or isn't. Talk about what it means to be a good friend and help her cultivate godly friendships. Here are some good verses to start with - Prov. 17:17, Prov. 27:6, Prov. 27:9, Prov. 16:28, Prov. 17:9.

Agel Level: Girls 10-14 years of age

I  received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shades Of Truth by Naomi Kinsman

Recommendation: Recommended

A new series in the FaithGirlz library, Shades of Truth is the first book from Sadie's Sketchbook. In this book we are introduced to Sadie and her parents. They have just moved from California to Owl Creek, Michigan and this story is wrapped around the struggles of a 7th grade girl who has just moved to a new community and is faced with new pressures - and she desperately misses her girlfriends! As she faces the challenges of new friendships she also has to deal with a mom who is chronically ill and a father whose job has made him very unpopular within the community. Sadie learns the importance of honesty as she questions who God is and if He plays a role in her life.

Positives: A great storyline and wonderful characters will make this book very appealing to its target audience. Pre-teen girls will identify with Sadie and the many challenges she faces. I enjoyed the honest and realistic storyline.

Negatives: In the description of the book we are told that Sadie must learn to have faith even when she doesn't have all the answers. This is not portrayed in the book at all, Sadie does not learn to have faith in God. She certainly has questions about prayer and about God, but she never receives truthful answers to these questions. When she attends Youth Group with her friend Ruth she asks questions and she is never given the gospel, in fact no one mentions Jesus in the entire book. At the end of the book, after she has run out of her home she finds refuge in a Catholic church where she spends the night. While there she tries praying is overcome with a warm feeling and knows that she must tell the truth. I'm guessing this is what the author refers to as her "faith." Based on the story, Sadie does not have a saving faith.

Talking Points: As I believe young girls will like this book it, it presents a perfect opportunity to introduce or hopefully, reinforce the basic truths of the gospel.  Start with understanding that God, the Creator is holy (Is. 6:1-3, Rev. 4:8, Matt. 5:48) and we (man) are utterly sinful (Eph. 2:1-3, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 3:10-18, Rom. 5:12). Because of our sin we are separated from God and there is a penalty that must be paid for our sin (Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 6:9-11, Rev. 20:14-15, II Thess. 1:5-9). Since we are dead and incapable of doing anything about our sin problem, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to this earth to live a perfect, sinless life (Is. 7:14, Matt. 1:23, John 1:1-5, Phil. 2:5-11). Christ shed his blood and died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin (Is. 53, Heb. 9:22, Matt. 27:33-54, Mark 15: 22-39, John 19:16-42, II Cor. 5:21) and rose again on the 3rd day to show He had once and for all defeated sin and death (Matt. 28:1-15, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20:1-18, I Cor. 15). Because of all that Christ has done on our behalf we are given the gift of faith through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9, John 20:30-31, Acts 4:12). It is essential that our children understand the true gospel laid out for us so clearly in Scripture. Do not them be mislead to think that faith is a "warm feeling" they may experience when they decide to do something right. Jesus says in John 14:6 - "I am THE Way and THE Truth and THE Life, no one comes to the Father except through me." Carefully and prayerfully share the gospel with them every opportunity you get! There are many other conversations you can have from this story also, ask your child what they thought or learned about in the book.

Age Level: Girls 10-14 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz in exchange for this review.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Story Shell by Gloria Repp

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

The 2nd book in the Friendship Bog Series is another wonderful tale of adventure and friendship that young children will enjoy. Pibbin is confronted with two different dilemmas and learns to become a leader as well as learning more about friendship. First, Leeper, his best friend has been gone for a long time and Pibbin is worried about him. While trying to find him he discovers that Gaffers story shell is missing - and tonight is Gaffers birthday party and everyone wants to hear a story - what is Pibbin to do? Even though he is small, Pibbin knows he can help, and besides, his friends need him. So off he sets on another adventure through Friendship Bog.

Positives: Great lessons of perseverance, bravery and friendship abound throughout this story. Kids will love the animals they meet and the danger Pibbin encounters when he meets a beaver who "really likes frogs." It appeals to a wide range of ages. It can be read together as a family and young readers will enjoy the independence of reading a chapter book. On her website the author also provides some questions that go along with each chapter. Click HERE to view the questions and answers.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Friendship Bog is a great place to learn about friendship - these animals truly care for each other and will go out of their way to serve each other. Gal. 5:13 and I Pet. 4:10 tell us to use our gifts and the freedoms we have in Christ to serve one another. I find that my children are more willing to serve their friends than their family  members so we have to focus on serving and loving each other at home. Matt. 20:28 tells us that Christ came to serve and to give His life. Ask your children how they can best reflect Christ to their friends? Talk with your children about ways to serve their friends and family as an act of love to bring glory to God.

Age Level: 2-9 years of age

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dragons Of The Valley by Donita K. Paul

Recommendation: Recommended

In the second book in the series, Dragons of the Valley weaves together a story of love, war, art and Wulder - the Creator God. With war threatening to destory his country, the artist Bealomondore must learn to become a warrior. He must also help his friend Tipper guard and protect the statutes that keep Chiril together before the devastating effects ruin the country from within.

Positives: For those who have followed the series, they will enjoy the continuation of the story and there are some great discussion points to talk about with your child.

Negatives: I found this story lacked some focus and the story line didn't move along as well as many of her previous books. I was often confused as to why a particular event happened, the different parts of the story didn't always fit together for me.

Talking Points: Wulder was worshipped and loved for the beauty He created and this worship was often expressed through their own creativity - a gift of thankfulness for the talent they were given. The Bible is full of passages that speak of creation of God's creativity and the beauty that reflects the glory of God (Ps. 19:1, Ps. 96:1, Ps. 98:1, Rom. 1:20, Gen. 1-3). Teach your children how to express their worship through the talents and gifts God has given them.

Age Level: 10 years old and up

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sammy And His Shepherd by Susan Hunt

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Sammy is a dear little lamb who loves his shepherd. As he grows he continually learns new and wonderful things about his Shepherd. One day he meets another sheep, one who isn't from his flock, one who has another shepherd. He feels sorry for this poor sheep as he sees her struggle. One day his shepherd buys his new friend and now they can live together. This new friend however has many questions, Sammy patiently answers her questions and teaches Precious all about their wonderful Shepherd.

Positives: If you have ever wanted to show your children Jesus in the Old Testament this is a perfect book for it! This portrayal of Psalm 23 clearly illustrates Christ as the Good Shepherd, a wonderful balance of of tenderness and truth. The questions to talk about at the end of the book provide a great resource for parents to continue to expand their child's understanding of Scripture and of who Jesus is. The illustrations are beautiful as well.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: The "Talk About It" section at the end of the book is marvelous, I cannot improve on this excellent resource! Use it as you read through the book. It provides additional Scripture references and excellent questions that will spur on conversation with your child. Take the author's suggestion and memorize this Psalm together as a family.

Age Level: 3-8 year olds

I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Trust Publishing for this review.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Nature of God - Wildernesss Discoveries and Ocean Adventures by Peter Schriemer

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended

This set of 6 DVD's and 2 books are a fantastic and fun resource. In Wilderness Discoveries you are taken to explore the eco-systems around Lake Michigan. With high-quality footage you get to see bugs, plants and animals up close and learn how an eco-system works together, why these particular animals live there and understand how God has specially created and equipped each one to bring Him glory. In Ocean Adventures you explore the coast of Hawaii and see the beautiful things God has created and learn how to be a good steward of His creation. The books compliment the DVD's which are each about 30 minutes in length, but the DVD's provide more information and are highly educational and entertaining. Peter Schreimer (the creator, writer and host of this series) also hosts "Critter Quest" on the Smithsonian Channel.

Positives: The DVD's were very high quality, my kids felt like they were watching something on the Discovery Channel, except that they were hearing about how God created everything. I loved that in each DVD they begin by talking about an attribute of God that we see manifested in creation. Each DVD also contains a Family Viewing Guide with questions to follow-up with. The books were excellent with high  quality photographs. My kids especially loved the "Crazy Cool Facts" on each page. There are Scriptures used throughout the book and a sampler DVD is included which will only wet your appetite to get the DVD's (of course)! I appreciated how the idea of stewardship and caring for God's creation was addressed but not overdone.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Romans 1:18-20 tells us that God's character, his invisible attributes are clearly seen through creation. Ask your children what they see and learn of God from His creation. Each DVD gives an attribute of God and a short thought on how creation reveals this attribute, expand on it. Use other Scriptures as well that tell us of the glories of God in creation.

Age Level: 3 years old and up

I received a free copy of these materials from Zonderkidz Publishing in exchange for this review.